WITH Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, Jews the world over are preparing to join with their families to celebrate the High Holy Days. Heralding the new year, they will gather round dining tables to recite kiddush, dip apple in honey and enjoy a festive meal. And then just a few days later, they will come together again to both start and break the annual Yom Kippur fast.
But for many families in Israel, the High Holy Day meals will be most notable for only one thing – the empty seat at the table. And the spirit of optimism with which one traditionally views the year ahead will be overshadowed by the tragic sense of loss of a loved one.
Operation Protective Edge claimed the lives of 66 Israeli soldiers. A further six civilians, four of them Jewish, died as a result of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, the youngest, Daniel Tregerman, just four years old.
A few short weeks earlier, the Jewish world reeled in horror as they learnt of the deaths of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by terrorists on their way home from school.
For the families of Daniel, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, scarred and traumatised by terror, this will be the most sorrowful of all Rosh Hashanahs. Likewise, for the families of those Israeli soldiers, some as young as 18 or 19, who gave their lives in defence of the Jewish State, our Jewish State, the New Year will be a time of grief. Mothers and fathers mourning their sons; brothers and sisters mourning their siblings; children mourning their fathers.
With the ceasefire still holding between Israel and Hamas, the gaze of the world may have shifted away from this troubled region, but with Rosh Hashanah upon us, let us take the opportunity to show these families that their loved ones have not been forgotten by the Jewish community in Australia and that our thoughts are with them.
Together with the Zionist Federation of Australia, The AJN is urging readers to send New Year messages to the families of the victims expressing our support, sympathy and supreme gratitude for the sacrifice their fathers, brothers and sons made to protect Israel and to ensure the security of its citizens.
AJN national editor Zeddy Lawrence said, “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for families to come together. In the days ahead, let us remember those in our homeland who have been robbed of that opportunity by the recent conflict. Let us honour the memory of their loved ones and let us offer them some comfort by showing them how much we care.”
ZFA president Danny Lamm said “Israel’s soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza fought a malicious enemy so as to protect Israel for its citizens as much as for us. We mourn the loss of the fallen, they will forever be in our memories as heroes of Israel.
“Just as our community stood proudly with Israel over the period of the conflict, I am sure that individuals will now reach out to express solidarity and compassion with the families whose tragedies will no doubt cast such a shadow over the coming High Holy Days.”
Cards and messages received by The AJN will be forwarded to the relevant organisations in Israel to pass on to the victims’ families.
Email your messages to email@example.com or send cards to Messages, PO Box 1000, Caulfield South, Vic 3162, by Friday, September 19.
The funeral of Sgt Shahar Shalev, who died on August 31 from injuries sustained in Gaza.